A quest of curiosity

Inspired by Johnathan Franzen- well by the interview he gave in Time Magazine. He says freedom is giving yourself over to something. (It has also been used to describe happiness.)

The guy is an American writer. I felt inspired he took 7 years to write one novel. And 9 years to write another one. Gotta look for his work.

His office is stripped of all distractions. It is just a desk and a laptop. And the laptop cannot access internet. He has blocked all the portals. He starts working at 7 am and goes on until whenever. He reads out loud what he writes. He has created a discipline for himself.

It turns out a young writer is on their thirties and early forties. So what am I?

I decided that I am a philosopher- someone who takes the time to think and make connections. So I will share this with the world on my blog. I am giving myself over to observing and thinking about things. Many people- my friends included and my mother- call it idling. And sadly in Kenya one does not earn a coin doing this.

Anyway, I have decided to do it. Let me see how far I can go.

Today I kept on waking up. I wanted to write. But I was sleepy as well. I should re-discover coffee. I have no excuse now. I am free to get consumed in work. The work of thinking and writing down my thoughts.  And learning how to observe the world.

Frazen likes to watch birds. He says they have to work too. They look for food, weave nests and sing. They are not idling and just having a good time as we assume they do.

The story that kept me awake at night is inspired by Steve Hawking’s quest to look for black holes.

It turns out blackholes cannot be seen or are not supposed to be seen. Everything breaks down in a black hole- the rules of the physical world do. So Steve and his friends who study the large-scale universe came up with a word for it. Cosmic censorship hypothesis. Black holes should not be seen at all by the people who are on the outside.

But to understand why they came up with that conclusion you would have to know a little bit about black holes.

Physicists say that a black hole is normally formed when a massive star- maybe as big as the sun maybe 5 times (can you believe stars as big as that exist!) collapses in on itself when it runs out of fuel. Again I have to explain what it means for a star to run out of fuel.

Stars are created when lots of hydrogen gas gets compressed in on itself. It is said that gravity helps with that. So let us imagine we have a lot of hydrogen gas somewhere and it is being pushed into a box. Eventually the gas starts heating up because the hydrogen atoms are getting closer and closer to each other and bumping into each other more. At one million degrees the hydrogen atoms collide and melt into each other. This in scientific terms is known as fussion. So when they melt into each other like that, they form helium and as they do so they release a lot of energy.

Stars start to shine when hydrogen coalesces to form helium.

And the helium which is heavier sinks into the center of the star and heats up as well to form another element (at this point I have forgotten which element turns into what) which is heavier and sinks to the center of the star and that cycle keeps being repeated until the core of that star is made up of iron.

All this time the star is shining because of the chemical reactions happening in it. When one element fusses to form another element a lot of energy is released. This is how most elements like oxygen and carbon are created.

It turns out stars are giant factories of the universe.

So now we have iron in the center of the star. But iron does not fuse to form anything. So the star starts to cool down because there is no more fussion, which releases energy, happening. Now imagine that all the hydrogen available gets finished. All of it becomes helium. And then after a while the helium gets finished. And the other elements also get used up after a while. Then the star runs out of fuel.

When stars run out of fuel most of them explode. This is what is called a supernova. And this is where rare elements such as gold and platinum get made.

However some stars are very big. So instead of exploding, it turns out that their gravity in the center keeps attracting things to itself. And as it does so, it keeps getting heavier and heavier and thus has more gravity that keeps collapsing more and more into itself. Eventually that center gets so heavy and dense that even light cannot escape it. So no one can see it!

But the crazy thing is because the center is heavy it starts to crash it self into a smaller and smaller area until all the matter that was in the sun now occupies an area as small as ball. Scientists call this a singularity.  At this point the laws of physics break down and God would not have wanted us to see that. It would be confusing. So it turns out that light cannot escape and so we cannot see black-holes.

This idea is kind of horrific to imagine. So most physicists tried to ignore that fact until about 40 years ago. So I can imagine these guys with a hunch that there is something out there that we cannot see going to ask for money (a grant) to see if they are right or not. But how would they know if that something really existed if nothing can escape from it and therefore we cannot tell that it exists?

Well they were convincing enough and got the money to build the equipment to try and see how they could detect black holes. What is striking to me is that most of these guys first imagined about things out there and then set out to see if they were right or not.

I can imagine sitting at home and trying to imagine what could exist out there. And even going as far calculating my guesses. And then having the guts to ask for money to see if what I imagined is right or not.

This is what science is all about really. That is why theories are created- things we imagine are possible- and then through observation we try to see if we are right or not.

If you have a hunch about something, do not just sit there, go out to see if you are right or not. It usually takes a long time to see nature sometimes. Can you imagine sitting there night after night waiting for something to happen that you are not sure exists at all? That is patience at its best.

Well this is also to encourage you to stop being so busy you do not have time to see things happening. It turns out life is so beautiful- I am sure you hear this everyday- and the universe such an amazing place. I should really dedicate sometime to try catch this action. You could also do it. Start with 5 minutes. See how it goes.


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